So you've hired a Virtual Assistant (VA) and you're both busy working away on various projects and tasks. With both of you being so busy, you may find yourself continuously writing email after email with instructions - some of which may be misunderstood. Before you know it, you realize that it's been weeks since you've actually met over the phone and had a discussion about current and upcoming projects.
The minor misunderstandings may build and eventually cause some tension in the new relationship. Things are not happening the way you want them to, you may feel some frustration and even worse - you may think this relationship just isn't going to work.
Before you give up .... think back to your original discussions - did you talk about your expectations? Did you consider each others’ work styles, working hours, upcoming projects and priorities and how to make the most of the relationship? How will you communicate? Strictly by email or is some phone communication required also?
A strong communication plan is essential in a relationship with a VA. Actually, for any kind of relationship to be successful, there needs to be good communication. However, in this case, with the relationship being a virtual one, both parties need to consider the best way to communicate so everything runs as smoothly as possible.
Communication is often an area that is overlooked. Both the client and the VA are so eager to get going on the many projects, that some critical pieces about the actual relationship are not discussed.
By following some of the considerations and suggestions below, you can create a communication plan that is going to work well for both parties:
Discuss your working hours
What are your standard working hours? What is the best time to reach you? We all have busy lives and other commitments, so be sure to discuss each others’ working hours so that you can set reasonable expectations in your communications.
Talk about preferred methods of communication
Are you more of a phone or an email person? Decided together how you will communicate and make a plan to do so. We recommend talking live at least once a month and then using email to manage most communication around projects/tasks. Some people prefer to also have a weekly call as well.
Establish monthly goals
Be sure to talk live at least once a month to establish your goals/projects for the month. We recommend having the 'top 3 projects' to work on each month... you can have more of course, but to set the top 3 priority projects with deadlines is a great way to establish what you want done for the month.
Touch base weekly
This can be via phone or email, just to touch base on the status of your projects for the month... keeps everyone on the same page as to what is being worked on. Even if there has been no work on a project that week, just to say 'on hold' or something along those lines.
Keep each email to one topic only
Trying to tackle everything in one email makes for a lot of reading and a lot of confusion. Keeping each email to one topic only allows for easier response and easier sorting of the various tasks and projects in your inbox.
Be clear on your requests and deadlines
Understand is the key to getting any project done correctly and on time. as such we recommend sharing as much as possible with your VA when making a request - be clear on your expectations of the end result, when you need it done by, budget (if any) and when you would like to be consulted or advised of the status. Most communication issues come from a lack of clear expectations and assuming that your VA knows something... better to over communicate, especially in the early stages of working together.
Note: This doesn't mean telling them how to do it, that is the VAs responsibility to know the technical 'how to'. You've hired them for their expertise in implementation, so don't worry about getting involved in how things are being done (unless you need to share specific training on your systems).
Consider having a master "project" list
Some people may find it helpful to have a list that identifies the tasks related to a large project and who's looking after what. This can include deadlines/commitments etc. This helps keep the project and VA/client relationship "on track" the list can be updated regularly and can also serve as a "reminder" if the VA is reminding the client to get particular items done on time.
Be realistic about time expectations
Your VA most likely has other clients and other commitments. When sending requests, be realistic on your expectations and turnaround time. By communicating regularly, it's easy to plan ahead but those "rush" projects can still creep up. Remember, a rushed projected can often result in errors
Request regular updates on hours used
Discuss with your VA how often you would like to be updated on the amount of hours being used, be it weekly, twice a month or monthly. So as to not be 'surprised' by the amount of hours used in a month, we recommend getting a short summary of hours used each week.

Author's Bio: 

Cindy Greenway, author of 'Virtually Successful: 8 Simple Ways for Virtual Assistants to Find (and Keep) Clients", is the Co-Founder of and also lead trainer at Since starting her business in 2003, Cindy has worked with highly respected and successful online entrepreneurs. She is most passionate about training and mentoring within the Virtual Assistant community. Get Cindy's "The 10 Critical Skills for a Thriving Virtual Assistant Practice" free report at